Jubo League leader arrested, over 180 jailed
In a major clampdown on gamblers, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on Wednesday raided at least six illegal casinos in Dhaka city and arrested an Awami Jubo League leader who allegedly ran one of those establishments.
During the raids, the elite force also seized around Tk40 lakh, gambling equipment and illegal liquor, among other items, from three of the casinos.
Many of these casinos were reportedly run by leaders of ruling party affiliate organizations, according to sources and locals.
More than 180 men and women, including casino staff and gamblers, were detained during the raids, after which mobile courts jailed them for different terms.
The first raid, conducted by a RAB 3 team, went down at a casino inside Fakirerpool Youngmen's Club in the capital’s Fakirapool area in the evening.
This casino was fully furnished with betting tables, slot machines, and roulette tables, where Dhaka Tribune correspondents saw large bundles of cash being counted and bottles of empty illegal liquor confiscated by RAB officials.
Club president and Jubo League’s Dhaka South unit Organizing Secretary Khalid Mahmud Bhuiyan was taken into custody around 8:40pm — hours after another RAB team cordoned off on Khalid’s home on Road 59 at Gulshan 2 in the afternoon.
RAB said Khalid was arrested with an illegal firearm, several rounds of bullets and yaba pills. Two more firearms he was in possession of were also seized as they breached the conditions mentioned in their licences to use them.
The raids and Khali’s arrest have come just five days after Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina vented anger on some Jubo League leaders at a party meeting.
From the Youngmen’s Club casino alone, around Tk24.29 lakh, a huge cache of gambling equipment and illegal liquor were seized, said RAB’s Legal and Media Wing Director Sarwar Bin Quasem.
During this drive, RAB had primarily detained 144 people including two women employees. The women were released after primary interrogation.
Thirty-one of them were jailed for a year while the rest for six months by RAB’s Executive Magistrate Sarwoer Alam.
One of the women, who identified herself as Megha and a receptionist-cum-marketing officer of the casino, said three people – Bakul, Mona and Rana – were the supervisors of the casino.
She claimed the casino had a workforce of 42 people, including two Nepalese nationals named Bhupesh and Sanjay who were the main supervisors.
Megha and the other woman who identified herself as Liza claimed the casino operated every day of the week, in two shifts of 12 hours. They also claimed that around 100 gamblers used to turn up at the casino every day, most of whom bet Tk20,000-50,000.
RAB’s Executive Magistrate Sarwoer told reporters that this casino was operational for the past eight months.
“When we entered the club, we found people gambling and drinking on the ground floor,” he said.
Menon chairman of club governing body
Photos inside the Youngmen’s Club have disclosed that Rashed Khan Menon, MP of Dhaka 8 constituency, is the chairman of its governing body.
After that RAB raid, photos of Memon, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Sheikh Hasina were found hanging on walls of a room inside the club.
However, the Workers Party chairman on Wednesday claimed he was not aware of the casino’s existence.
“I knew that it was a sports club, and this is why I agreed to be its (governing body’s) chairman. I did not know it was being used as a casino,” he told reporters, and added that he visited the club only once.
Menon also claimed that the government was aware of this casino. “Even police knew about it. Why didn’t they take action earlier?”
He denied taking any responsibility for the illegal gambling operation.
Sources said a 31-member executive body of the club was announced on June 19, 2016, with Khalid as its president. Later on, Menon was made the governing body chairman.
Later on Wednesday evening, RAB raided another casino inside Dhaka Wanderers’ Club at Fakirapool, seizing alcohol, cash and gambling equipment. The club is situated right next to the Youngmen’s Club.
However, nobody was found inside the establishment. RAB sources said those who were inside it fled through an escape door right before the raid.
Locals alleged that Swechchhasebak League President Molla Mohammad Abu Kawser runs this casino.
Meanwhile, a RAB 1 team sealed off another casino named Golden Dhaka Bangladesh inside Ahmmed Tower at Banani and raided it around 6pm.
RAB spokesperson Sarwar said no one was detained during this raid as this casino — covering 4,000 square feet — was found closed. But various gambling equipment were seized.
In the fourth raid, RAB detained 40 people from a casino housed inside the Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra, a leading sports club, at Gulistan.
It was allegedly being run by Jubo League’s Dhaka South unit President Ismail Chowdhury Samrat, whose photo was found hanging inside a room of the casino.
RAB also recovered around Tk4 lakh during the raid, after which a mobile court jailed the 40 detainees for six months.
The elite force also conducted similar raids in Kakrail and Elephant Road areas. But no details were available regarding them until 1:30am on Thursday.
According to media reports, there are 60 illegal casinos in the capital.
Gambling takes place regularly at these casinos in Segunbagicha, Motijheel, Fakirapool, Dilkusha, Bank Colony, Arambagh, Nayapaltan, Kakrail, Gulistan, Osmani Udyan, Bangabazar, Gulshan Link Road, Uttara, New Market, and Kalabagan, in Dhaka, reports UNB.
Jubo League chief smells conspiracy
Reacting to the raids on casinos run by Jubo League leaders, the organization’s Chairman Omar Faroque Chowdhury on Wedesday said a larger conspiracy was underway to tarnish Bangladesh Awami League's image.
He said law enforcement agencies should have gone after the illegal casinos sooner and wondered why they did not.
Talking to reporters at Jubo League’s central office, Omar, however, admitted to his failure to prevent the illegal casino operations.
"If the intelligence branches and media knew about the casinos all along, why wasn't this information made public earlier?" he asked.